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Israel, U.S. sign defense pact

The Bush administration signed a deal to boost U.S. military grants to Israel by 25 percent.

U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns and Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer met Thursday in Jerusalem to seal a deal whereby Israel will receive $30 billion in defense aid over the coming decade.

Israel, which currently gets $2.4 billion a year from Washington, sees the boost as vital to overhauling its armed forces in the wake of the Lebanon war and ahead of any showdown with arch-foe Iran.

“There is no question that from an American point of view, the Middle East is a more dangerous region now even than it was 10 or 20 years ago and that Israel is facing a growing threat,” Burns told reporters. “It’s immediate and it’s also long-term.

“The United States faces many of the same threats from the same organizations and countries as Israel does, and so we felt this was the right level of assistance.”

The new deal awaits congressional approval, and officials anticipate the first payout will take place in the 2009 fiscal year.

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